Saturday, January 27, 2018

Deja Vu All Over Again

Trenton mayor Eric Jackson made it official yesterday. He will not run for a second term.

We weren't even going to post about this somewhat anticlimactic announcement from the failed first term mayor. His tenure in office has been marked by failures and missteps on a regular basis. After being literally missing in action for at least a month and not having filed his paperwork to run in May's municipal election three weeks into January the announcement came as no surprise to Trenton city hall watchers.

If you are really interested, you read Jackson's statement as posted on the city website here. 

The key parts of Jackson's statement are that he's done what he set out to do in office and that he making this decision was personal, not political.
And so today, after four years of hard work, four years of renewed energy and vibrancy, four years of reform, four years of growth and four years of positive transformation, I am here to announce that my work as mayor is complete and that I will not seek a second term as mayor.
As with my decision to run for mayor, I made this decision after great consideration. And I must stress that this is very much a personal, not political, decision. I still believe I have much to contribute to Trenton’s rebirth, but I now believe that my contributions will be greater outside of City Hall than from the Mayor’s Office. I am grateful to every resident for entrusting me with the responsibility of leading our city and very proud of all we’ve accomplished together. Now that the City has been restored to fiscal stability and put on a path to economic prosperity and greater public safety for all residents, I will look forward to continuing that work.
Jackson was often labeled "Palmer 2.0" or "Palmer Lite" by detractors. A reference to the 20 year mayor under whom Jackson served as Director of Public Works. The image of a clone administration was enhanced somewhat by Jackson's choice to fill his cabinet with other former-Palmer administration stalwarts.

Even in announcing his decision to not run again, Jackson echoed what Doug had said just over 8 years ago. On December 9, 2009, we posted this in response to Doug's announcement that he wouldn't run again:
Citing a decision made in concert with family and a desire to leave on his own terms (not get voted out), Palmer stated he was comfortable with the accomplishments of his 19+ years in office.
Palmer vowed to continue working hard during the last seven months of his term and hand his successor a Trenton in better shape than what it was in 1990. He clicked off some of his notable achievements: lowered crime rate, increased housing/home ownership opportunities, economic development.
 There is one other similarity between the two.

Their decision to not run again made a lot of people happy.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Another strike against Jackson

It's not funny anymore.

The situation with Trenton Water Works is bad, but the issue of poor communication from the administration of Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson is way out of control.

The latter compounds the former.

Today, Trenton's water utility experienced another issue with poor quality resulting in a boil water advisory for customers in Trenton and parts of Ewing and Hamilton.

It was the NJ DEP who called for the boil water advisory and who, ultimately, got the word out. Trenton's communication mechanism was apparently paralyzed by the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

As word spread, first on social media, then via newspaper articles posted online, then a notice sent out by the Hamilton Township municipal government, there was nothing from the City of Trenton.

No robocalls, although several had been sent out reminding residents of no trash pick up today.
No posting on the city website until way after the fact.

This begs the question, yet again, #WheresEric?

The problems with the utility have been well documented elsewhere. It is unfathomable that a man who spent a good chunk of his career with responsibility, first as Public Works Director and later as Mayor, of the TWW couldn't get a handle on the issues even a little bit.

There have been problems with staffing for years and Trenton's residency requirement for employees was often cited as a problem. In 2014, Trenton's city council passed amendments to the ordinance that allowed the city hire from outside the city boundaries if need be. Still, TWW has been cited as being woefully understaffed.

Trenton was ordered to make cover and make other improvements to its reservoir. The money is there, yet the work has not been done.

The state Department of Environmental Protection, citing the city's continued failure to properly staff and manage the utility, told them to move ahead with contracting for an outside operator to take over.

That hasn't been done.

With each repeated failure of the water treatment plant, customers wait for information and advisories from the city. And wait. And wait.

The mayor is an "experienced" government officer who sold himself to voters as someone who could "hit the ground running" and successfully handle the running of Trenton. He's brought back lots of equally "experienced" city hall veterans as division and department directors. And he has well paid public information officer. Yet Jackson and company are incredibly tight-lipped when there's a problem with the drinking water supply (or missing employment tax funds or any other negative issue). If team Jackson communicates anything at all, it is late and lacking pertinent details.

Just look at today's notices posted on three municipal websites about the water issues:

Here's Ewing's notice to residents:

Hamilton posted this one:

And Trenton, finally...well after the fact...put up this very spartan announcement. 

Finally, just a mere 12 hours after first becoming aware of the problem, the city of Trenton utilized its robocall system to contact TWW customers.

It certainly shows that the first term mayor and his hand chosen team are not up to the task of running a water utility or a city; and certainly not both.

How can the mayor say he's working on economic development when he can't communicate? How can he claim to be making Trenton a better place to work and live when he can't safeguard the water supply? How can anyone feel good about investing in, moving a business to or residing in a city run by a bunch of mute misfits?

It remains to be seen if Jackson is going to run for a second term. As of a week ago, he had not filed his campaign paperwork. And we know he hasn't kept up with his finance reports from the 2014 campaign.

If he does run, there isn't a single voter in Trenton who should give up his or her vote to this failed mayor.

If he doesn't run let us hope he isn't given an appointment in the administration of incoming governor Phil Murphy. We can't think of any one less qualified for a continued government paycheck.

And, if Jackson doesn't run, voters would be well advised to not vote for any candidate or slate that gets a Jackson endorsement.

Eric E. Jackson has failed Trenton and it is time for the voters to fail him.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Where's Eric?

In the kerfuffle surrounding last week's notice to Trenton Water Works rate payers that there had yet again been issues with the quality of the water, Trenton's Mayor was absent. Sure, there was the official notice about the high rate of haloacetic acid 5 (dated December 26, 2017 but not slated for release until January 5, 2018. Huh?!?!?). But where was Eric Jackson?

As the 2018 Municipal Election season (aka "silly season") ramps up, we acquired a list of campaign registration sheets from Trenton's Municipal Clerk. Among the 18 people who have filed to run in the May election, there are four challengers for the Mayor's seat. But where is Eric?

We started asking around. Nobody has really seen or directly heard from the mayor in a couple of weeks. He didn't hold a Christmas party for his (still NON-tax exempt) foundation, Moving Trenton Together.

He still hasn't turned in any of the missing quarterly NJ ELEC finance reports for the past three years.

Where is Eric Jackson?

One tidbit we did turn up. Apparently, Mayor Jackson's health hasn't been great. And for that, we are truly sorry. At this time, we have unverified reports that Jackson had some issues with blood clots, possibly in his legs. This is no laughing matter and is reported to have resulted in the Mayor being hospitalized at Capital Health Medical Center in Hopewell. And if it is not the first occurrence of this condition, how well is it being managed?

First and foremost, we hope that Mayor Eric Jackson recovers from this serious medical condition and continues to do what needs to be done to ensure there are no future setbacks.

However, if he has really been out of commission, did he notify the city council? Did he hand over day to day authority to a deputy or acting mayor?

With all of the issues the capital city is experiencing, shouldn't the public be entitled to know if the mayor duly elected to serve them is incapacitated? Should he decide to file his paperwork and run again in this spring's election, wouldn't it be good to know if he is healthy enough to serve the full term?

And, lastly, what does it say about the man's performance in office thus far if he can be out of commission, hospitalized, and no one knows or asks...

...Where's Eric?